Streamlined Permitting Bill Makes Headway

Legislation that might be headed for passage would shorten turnaround times for permits and expedite the approval process for major developments. Although passed from committee after the normal legislative cutoff date SB 6578 might have been positioned to be included in the Senate budget because of its longer term cost savings and economic development possibilities.

AGC strongly supports the bill which allows multiagency permitting teams to coordinate permitting and integrated regulatory decision-making. The bill is modeled on the Transportation Permit Efficiency and Accountability Committee (TPEAC) that since 2001 has streamlined the environmental permitting process for transportation projects.

“This bill would allow for the resource agencies to concurrently process environmental permits rather than sequentially” said AGC Legislative Counsel Van Collins at a recent hearing. “The result is efficiency and time and cost savings.”

SB 6578 directs the Office of Regulatory Affairs (ORA) to develop an optional multiagency permitting team for coordinated permitting and integrated regulatory decision making. The team is “optional” because it is to be formed at the request of the agency seeking the permit.

The team is to be staffed by personnel from the departments of Ecology Fish and

Wildlife and Natural Resources and managed through a team leader from ORA. The team leader is to:

  • develop coordinated permitting and integrated decision-making services;
  • develop funding agreements;
  • conduct outreach and advertising;
  • develop partnerships with organizations that can join the team on a project-by-project basis;
  • implement dispute resolution protocols; and
  • use virtual tools to support the work of the team.

The core services of the team are to include:

  • a preapplication coordination service;
  • permit advisory and coordination services;
  • an integrated unified decision-making service; and
  • a mitigation coordination service.

The team is to target:

  • environmental clean-up restoration and enhancement projects;
  • large scale development projects;
  • aquaculture and complex aquatic resources permit application projects; and
  • energy power generation and utility projects.

This team approach would first be applied to the Puget Sound region and is expected to take effect in fiscal year 2011. Already the U.S. Navy has expressed interest in using the model for the proposed major new development at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor according to the bill’s sponsor Sen. Dan Swecker (R-20).

SB 6578 sped through the Senate and is currently in the House Ways and Means Committee – an indication of the “fast track” the bill seems to be on.

For additional information contact Van Collins at 360-352-5000.